The Free State of Garth Long by Jonathan Gordon

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Jonathan Gordon
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Book review

Following the epilogue, Garth Long – a confused and beautiful young man in his twenties – awakes to find himself in a universe he does not understand even one bit. He is in a commune surrounded by members of a counter-culture movement known only as WB. Garth, it seems, is to be the new Messiah-like leader of said movement. This causes him to sigh a lot and feel tired and confused. A posh young sod named Felix Sawtorter appears and encourages Garth to see the bigger picture and do great things for he (Garth, says Felix) is indeed an important man – he is the hero of a silly book called The Free State of Garth Long. Felix seems to have the answers Garth craves but equally seems not to have his best interests at heart.

Meanwhile, back in the ‘real’ world a less beautiful but equally confused and much, much angrier young man called Sockupuss (not his real name) has returned, salmon-like, to his home town only without the intention of spawning. He spends his days drinking, smoking and scribbling dark and doomy rants in a notebook, which he then dispatches to a person named Loomis for inclusion in a manuscript he has been working on since his days at university. He has abandoned a safe, affluent life for a solitary life of the mind and, in the process, has rather carelessly lost the will to live. When the savings he lives on are exhausted he intends to end it all, possibly in North Wales.

For Garth Long, one ‘wacky’ adventure follows another and he continues to strive, vainly, to understand any of it. Why do a lot of his adventures involve sad, strange, middle-aged men ejaculating inappropriately? Why do so many (mostly dark-skinned) corpses keep appearing before him? Why does everyone refer to shoes as ‘Bitch Clogs’? And who, for the love of Buddha, is paying for all this? Answers prove elusive and Garth becomes increasingly frayed but can see no other option than to stumble blindly on towards the piffling epiphany that, surely, must await him further on up the road.

As Sockupuss becomes increasingly unhinged so too the narrative splinters and we see the dark heart of the modern world in all its hilarious stupidity. Garth’s adventures continue (he witnesses the hunting down and execution of all Britain’s celebrity chefs, as well a larger, more meaningless massacre in the grounds of legendary hotel The Pitz) but as the pages flick by he comes no closer to enlightenment and begins to suspect that it all might just be one big joke at his expense. Finally, hammered, beaten, weary and minus a Bitch Clog, he arrives at The End of Novel Party, where complimentary Tizer and Twiglets are available for all.

With its fractured style, The Free State of Garth Long, seeks to illustrate how the ‘real’ world gets skewed by what goes on in our heads and how the inside of our heads cannot help but become warped by what our senses transmit into them.

It is supposed to be a comedy.


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